Archive | spring in the Aegean

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to Christina Book and Joe Splendido, wherever you are, and to me too!  I have forgotten how old they are…friends from the distant past…maybe the same as me, or damn close.

52 years and doing alright, all things considered.

I woke up this morning at 6AM after a fitful 5 hours of sleep–dreams of lost luggage, being stuck in crumbling concrete airports, missed flights, mercenary taxi cabs…

As of tomorrow I will be off-line for almost two weeks.  I am sending my laptop into Athens to Apple to be repaired and cleaned.  I am taking this time to avoid my mobile phone as well.  I’ll get some reading done, take a lot of pictures and sleep differently, I imagine.

I inherited my mother’s old Olivetti Lettera 22 (c.1966) which she used for over 30 years, one of many typewriters she owned.  It needs some TLC, and I found a repairman in Venice who will do it, but it will be expensive.  It will be expensive to send it there and have it sent back but I feel it is worth it.  It might be cheaper to go to Venice and deliver it, stay for a few days, then bring it back.  Well…not really, but it might be worth the trip!  Venice in the spring?  I would like to use it…type some letters to those I love…write something interesting.  The happy organic sound of a manual typewriter clacking away on the front terrace…

Olivetti Lettera 22, c.1966

This post was going to be about politics, but I deleted what I wrote.  Not worth the effort.

–JDCM

 

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Kythnos and a change of plan…

–There is a lot to see and do on Kythnos and by the time I leave on Friday I will have seen and done most of it.  Superb hiking, archaeological sites (mesolithic, Byzantium, 19th century mining…), good eats, friendly folks…The weather was so-so for the first two days but then the sun came out, the winds shifted and there was fine weather for getting lost on the donkey trails and photographing more stone walls than I knew what to do with.  I am pretty much saturated with walls at the moment.  I have a feeling I will finish up the roll I have in my camera today and be done with this island for the time being.  I have one more long hike to do tomorrow (12 km) so perhaps I will try to use one more roll.  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

–I found an excellent little taverna on the port of Merichas.  Typical family-run, spitiko, without all the frippish tom-foolery of frankish cuisine.  I ate roasted goat in lemon sauce last night; grilled fresh sardines the night before…local, mild feta on my salads.  I’ll go there again tonight.  Funny thing…when Kostas, the owner’s son, heard I was from Paros, he told me that his cousin Giorgos worked in a fish taverna in Paroikia…Hmmm…I know Giorgos well!  We had a good time and then Kostas called Giorgos and he and I had a quick chat.  I love these alliances.  So Yalos Byzantio is my spot.  I dine there again tonight.

–My lodging has been excellent.  My small studio overlooks the harbour of Merichas.  The ferries dock just a few hundred meters away and the ins-and-outs of tourist sailors in their small rented sailboats make for interesting comedy-drama.  Only some seem to be good sailors.  The rest look like they are trying too park their cars.  Oh well…I wish them all the fun in the world.  The Aegean is a lovely place to sail.

–I am tired.  I am tired of living out of my luggage.  I will have a lot more of that this summer so I suppose I should get used to it, but for the moment…

I left Paros on May 10th, after a four-day general strike which threw all my plans into the air.  As a result of this strike, I was forced to use one of the High-Speed ferries that runs around the Aegean.  I hate these things for many reasons.  The only other time I was on one was in 2006 and I picked up a terrible respiratory bug just by being shut inside the interior for several hours with no fresh air.  True to form, by the time I reached Evia on Thursday the 12th, my throat was scratchy.  By Saturday I was on antibiotics, decongestants…sick.  11 days later I am finally off the meds.  I need to go home.  I feel great, but it is time to sit on my own terrace, sleep in my own bed…

As luck would have it, the same ferry that would have brought me to Syros, continues on home to Paros.  So I will leave Kythnos Friday morning and be home in time for tea…

Pezoules, walls and and Agios Anathasios, Kythnos, 2016

Pezoules, walls and and Agios Anathasios, Kythnos, 2016

 

 

–JDCM

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Travel notes, May 2016…Kea…

–The short ferry ride from Lavrio to Kea is, despite its single hour, quite remarkable.  As a student of 20th century Balkan History I had heard of, and read about, the concentration camp island of Makronisos, but I had not realized it lay so close to the mainland.  As we slowly sailed past I could see the ruins of buildings and structures…political prisoners, social dissidents and members of the military suspected of being “infected” with dangerous ideas were sent to Makronisos during the Greek Civil War (1946-49).  For a more detailed and moving account of this time, read Kevin Andrews’ The Flight of Ikaros: a journey into Greece.  Ironically, I re-read this book only a few weeks ago…

–Kea is a rugged place.  Smaller than Paros, yet it feels bigger.  The Port of Korissia is small and around the port are a number of meadows heading inland, but only for a short distance.  After that it is a long climb to the chora, Loulida, perched along the ravine.  The streets in the chora are steep and car-free.  It is pretty little town and the archeological museum is supposed to be one of the best in Greece.  It is, however, only open on Friday from 08:00-15:00 and so I will miss it.  Kea reminds me of a smaller and greener Naxos.

–The flora of Kea is very much the same as on Paros and many of the other islands with one lovely exception: the pedunculate oak.  For centuries, Kea supplied the tanners of Greece, Rome, Venice, etc… with acorn caps.  By the end of the 19th century this practice had been replaced with less expensive synthetic processes so the acorn was not needed and the thriving industry collapsed.  Thank God they didn’t cut down the trees!  You know what…go here instead.  These folks know more about it than I do and are a big part of the new sustainable Kea.

–Kea is still a thriving agricultural island and this is evident when one hikes along the well used donkey paths and other by-ways.  Pommes de terre are numerous!   The xcero-lithia that crisscross the island are lovely, beautiful, crafted…some are so old that the moss and lichen that cover them are dissolving them, turning their hard edges round and soft.  New wall construction is in the old fashion, so the technique is being preserved.

–I will have shot three rolls of 35mm film when I leave on Friday as well as  fair amount of digital.  I have been hiking a lot although I did rent a car.  It is a good idea so at least get up and out of town into the interior before setting out walking to a cove or mountain top.  This time of year it is quite empty outside the port, so it has been rare to see anyone else but the occasional goat.  Most of the others I have seen are, I think, French and English.  I cannot be sure.  Athenian day sailors like Kea too.

–If I had brought my mountain bike, I would have rented a car anyway for the same reasons as above.  Mountain biking on pavement is a drag and bad for the tires.  Best to load the bike into a car and drive inland, park, and bike on the dirt roads.  For road biking, anyone who wants constant interval training on hills, come to Kea.  The fun never ends.

–JDCM

Kea walls and oaks                  Kea walls 2

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Darkness and light…

It is Easter here.  The symbolic nature of the the life/death/life cycle are not lost on me.  My grief over the death of both my parents last year will continue to shake my psyche for some time.  This week I have been particularly sad.   My father and I had a troubled and difficult relationship.  Still, I miss his little emails about what he would be making for dinner, what he was reading…My mother?  Ah, yes…mama…

She was my center.   She was stability and gentleness, support and unconditional love.  Regardless of my age or maturity, she was there.  I would come home and she would greet me at the door with a hug.  If I had telephoned beforehand, she would have always asked, “What do you want for dinner?”  There was always food, hugs, warmth, encouragement.  Roast chicken. Pot roast.

Panagia

Amidst this crushing grief,  my family and I are all but forced to sell her house, the house where I grew up and, for 47 years of my life, the only home I have ever known.  It is a matter of practicality since none of us can afford to live there and pay the taxes–and for this I am ashamed.  I can only speak for myself.  I have had to reduce a source of protection, nurturing and golden memory into a commodity, something to be passed on to strangers.   May they find the same hub of stability there that I have known forever.

I decided 3 years ago to move to Paros full time, to make my home here, to try to sink roots in this rocky land.  The deaths of my parents has rendered my old compass obsolete and my maps out of date.   Previous points of reference have faded and mean too much or nothing at all.   My new compass is a thing of beauty–bronze, marble, sunlight and the wine-dark sea.  My new maps are crisp and unmarked.

So darkness and light, death and life…we grasp for handholds on our respective islands.  We find ourselves in treacherous waters, between rocks and the hardest of places.  Tonight at midnight the lights will go out and from behind the curtain the magic appears…a single trembling flame–hope for the hopeless, a light in the darkness.

Kalo Pascha!

–JDCM

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The hazy shade of winter…

After a few weeks of unseasonably warm and dry days, the weather has turned back to winter here on Paros.  The rains have started, the clouds have rolled in…the wind has shifted from the north.  We need the water badly.  I am sitting at Port Kafe, waiting for the boat to come and take me to Athens for a couple of days.  The schedules have changed for today so I have a few hours to wait.  Still, I would rather wait here than in my flat.  Pericles makes an exceptional Greek coffee and he knows me well.

Today is the first day of Lent in the Greek Orthodox Church.  For the next 40 days there should be seriousness, sadness, contemplation.  Also no oil, no animal products, no leavened bread,no meat with a backbone.  No weddings, no christenings, no birthdays, no name-days…Thank the gods for octopus and chorta, fresh clams and beans with lemon juice!  Like most traditions co-opted by the Church, the idea began long before Christianity.  It falls around the same time of the year when the stores of food would begin to run low.  The fall and summer harvest’s bounty is beginning to be used up and it is too early for the new lambs…the seas perhaps too rough to fish.  So for the next 40 days we scrimp and don’t eat so much.  Or so we should.  I think, maybe, considering everything that is happening in the world,  we should do it just to experience a little starvation.   Many people don’t have this luxury.

Today is also my mother’s birthday.  She would have been 92 today and we would have gathered and helped her to celebrate with flowers and cards.  I can still celebrate the day.  She was very proud of me and my sisters, loved us dearly and without conditions, without judgment.  She worried, like all good mothers can and do.  She rushed to our aid when she could.  She let us go as we needed.  She gathered us in her arms when we returned home for a holiday, a weekend or a much needed break from all the difficulties that taxed her children’s existence.   For me, she was the parent I turned to for help.  In times of trouble she would look me in the eye and say, “Listen, this is all going to be over soon…” or  “You have always been able to just do it, just go out there and make your own way…!”  and eventually “The last thing I want you to do is waste your life taking care of me…I’m alright.  You get on with it.”  She was quite the woman.  Quite the mother.  My mama.  Our mama! I miss her every Goddamn day…that would have been something she would have said too.  She was brilliant, caring, gentle and could curse like a longshoreman.  Happy Birthday mama.  Many kisses.

Below are some images from the past few weeks–pictures drawn by the children of some friends for my birthday, a photo of me at the bike race receiving the 3rd Place Bronze…Mom would have been tickled pink to see these things and to be at the party.  I would like to think she was.

DSC_0677

bday pic 2

 

bday pic 3

 

bday pic 5bday pic 6

–JDCM

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Another year…

I am 51 and a day today.  This past year has been one that is still hitting me in waves, endless ripples from countless stones tossed in my emotional pool.  I contemplate making a phone call and suddenly realize there is will be no one on the other end of the line.  I imagine a voice and the softness of a cheek…and they are gone.  My mother will no longer look up from the New York Times Sunday crossword, over her glasses, and announce, “Well, that’s done!”  My father will no longer smack his lips after taking a sip of something tasty and raise his glass.  He was always one for toasts.  “Hear, hear,” she would chorus during better times.

Polly and Hilary in Provincetown, 1970. photo by Sara Ballard

Polly and Hilary in Provincetown, 1970.

I was thinking the other day that I have never been the “cool” guy.  Never hip, never dressed in the latest fashion…I was feeling down that day.  Then I realized I didn’t  care.  When I was younger, maybe, but then again I was envious of those around me who had better or more or newer or sexier (or so I believed)…not much weight there.  Pretty superficial stuff.  I hope they are happy in their respective lives.

So these days I do what I am wanting to do and this makes me happy.  I am not treading on the lives of others and I am moving forward and slightly uphill.  I am honouring my mother and my father in my life and activities.  I am finally getting around to reading a short biography of St. Augustine given to me by my sister a few years ago.  I am reading some Epicurus.  I am back to building fine scale WW 1 aircraft which give me great joy and satisfaction, not just in their execution but in the research involved.  I am in training for a very tough mountain bike race being held here March 6th.  I have a photo shoot coming up next week which I have been looking forward to for months.  It will be several hours of intense work, and then that stage will be done.  Then I develop the film.  Then I choose what to print, etc…intervals and stages, tension and release.  One day I am 50, and then the next day…

Biking here on Paros is a good metaphor for my life.  The stress of the uphill slogs are rewarded by not only the accomplishment but also the release of the inevitable downhill run, slaloming around rocks and through washed out sections of red dirt roads.  Then it is uphill again.

It all feels pretty cool to me.

–JDCM

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5th Circle of Paros bicycle race…

The Circle of Paros bicycle race has come and gone and I feel pretty good about it.  The course was the reverse of last year so the hills were more vertical and the downgrades less intense.  Still, I managed to ride it in about the same time as last year, coming in at 2:38:37 compared to last year’s 2:37+.  Like I said, I am alright with that. My Boardman cycle was an excellent ride.  About 6 kilometers from the finish my right hamstring cramped with a very painful charley horse.  It is bad enough when that happens and you are not moving at 30 km/h on a 8.6 kilo bicycle…no time to stop!  I had to stretch my leg while I was pedaling.  Then I had to get my foot back in the pedal.  There are loads of pictures of the whole race here but I gleaned a couple of good ones for you all…

The final kilometer...photo by Dimitris Chaniotis

The final kilometer…photo by Dimitris Chaniotis

The end...photo by Robert Van der Most

The end…photo by Robert Van der Most

The times are here…

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4PyrkQmGFMMVy1TYjlDVVR2aE51TEM4a1lBWGFVUnk4eWMw/view

 

–JDCM

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A normal life of inventories and maintenance…

Not much to report these days.  More of the same–photography, working in the darkroom, mountain biking, road biking…a life beyond my wildest dreams.

I entered and raced the Athlos Nikolaos Stellas Memorial Mountain Bike Race last Sunday.  I (phyllo 3, Mastero, John) came in 4th in my age group and event (35+, bike only) at 59:50.  For some reason I cannot add links today.  Go to https://twitter.com/poparou and click around…However, the scores listed have me coming in 6th in the 16-35 year old group.  I am flattered.  I haven’t been 35 in a long time.

JDCM in the yellow and black jersey...59:50, 4th place.

JDCM in the yellow and black jersey…59:50, 4th place.

I took the ferry to Naxos the other day for a day trip and rode over 90 kilometers on my mountain bike. It was stunning.  Spring in the Kyklades is not to be missed.

Agios Sozon Kalado, Naxos

Agios Sozon Kalado, Naxos

Along the track past Maxairota, Naxos

Along the track past Maxairota, Naxos

I will be replacing the front forks of my mountain bike this week as well as the rear derailleur.  This will be an expensive, but very necessary job.  After almost two years of strenuous biking (with a bike that was well-used when I bought it) the current forks are worn out and have lost their lubrication.  Unfortunately they are a sealed unit which means I cannot re-grease, etc…so out they go!  After this big job I will have replaced almost everything except the frame.  Necessary maintenance.

At the top...Agios Tryphonas, Naxos

At the top…Agios Tryphonas, Naxos, 578 m.

I have inventoried my works in progress for my new portfolio. I have a few more prints to make, however this will not stop me from beginning the selenium toning process.  I will be finished with this by the middle of May.  It is an interesting portfolio, very abstract, and I sure many people will not understand it, or perhaps not understand what I see.  So be it.  We all bring ourselves to these things.  It is not my job to guide people or tell them what they are viewing.

I will begin training in earnest for the 2015 Circle of Paros road race on June 6th this week.   I have ridden the route many times since last summer.  The rumor is that this year we ride the opposite direction.  Clockwise…

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Easter, biking, work…

Many years ago, when I was writing and playing my own music, I conceived a piece entitled “God; Family; Work.” The premise was that all of us (i.e. human beings) were influenced by these three aspects of modern life.  It was to be a rock ‘n’ roll symphony in five movements.  I never finished it.

I have been googling the term ‘artist’ and have come up with nothing relevant beyond a definition that everyone has heard before.  The jist is that someone has achieved this status after years of labor perfecting their skills and craft.  I know some artists here on Paros, people of curiosity and brightness.  I have been working with some other young photographers as of late, perfecting our technical skills.  If someone wants to call what we are doing ‘art’ then that is their business.  I would rather call it ‘work’.  I get up in the morning, go to work, have some leisure time away from work, etc…

Of course, there are some who hear the term ‘work’ and run for the hills.  I, on the other hand, find great satisfaction “in a job well done.”  I share this joy with family and friends.

Greek Easter was splendid and filled with the aroma of roasting lamb.  We paid homage to the spirit of the lamb and honored its sacrifice.  Our food had a face.  We connected the source with our bellies.

Here is an interesting link regarding Francis Bacon

Slow Art Day at the Paros Archeological Museum was wonderful.  About 12 people showed up and we viewed three different works each for ten minutes a piece.  The kouros below is a small statue that I enjoyed a great deal.

This weekend I will jump back into the darkroom and, I hope, print at least 6 new pieces.  I also have 4-6 rolls of film to develop.  Next week I am off to the nearby island of Naxos for a couple of days.  There is a 75km mountain bike ride I wish to take.

roasting lamb, Easter 2015

roasting lamb, Easter 2015

5th cent. BCE kouros

5th cent. BCE kouros

-JDCM

 

 

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Spring in the Aegean…2015

It has been the wettest and coolest spring that many can remember.  Since March there have been more clouds than sun, more rain than not.  Yes, this may seem acceptable to friends in more northern climes, but around here it makes people nervous.  Paros is, for the most part, an arid climate and our primary agricultural gifts (olives, grapes, figs, tomatoes, etc…) demand that the soil be dry and the water stop falling  from April to October.  I am hoping that by the middle of the month the rains will cease.

I have been printing a lot and I have 30 pieces so far for my exhibit next fall.  Another 20 and I can begin editing, then selenium toning, then off to the framers they go.  I will most likely use a local company here in Paroikia, but I must demand a better frame quality.  The most recent batch were inexpensive, lightweight and thinly lacquered stock and some people have brought this to my attention.  I will be a little more struct with this next exhibit.  What have I been printing?  Old stuff, new stuff, 35mm, medium format.  A little bit of everything.

I am going to invest in some archival storage for my collection of portraits that are still in their frames, in a box, in my bedroom, in my flat.  I should get them out of this situation and into something more manageable.  Plus, it will free a cubic meter of living space.

I have been biking a lot lately, which I need to do.  I have been working on my hills, getting advice, pumping the pedals.  There is an 18km mountain bike race in a couple of weeks that winds its way from Marpissa, through Piso Livadi, along Molos, through the valley to Glyfada and back to Marpissa.  I rode it yesterday with some very fit pro-am folks and we rode it in 1:16.  This included taking two wrong turns and not really going too fast.  I hope to ride it in an hour.  It is a solid goal.  Other than that, I have been out on the road bike and digging that, getting ready for the Circle of Paros road race on June 6th.

Orthodox Easter is next Sunday.  I will view the proceedings at Panagia Ekatontapiliani for Friday and Saturday nights, then at midnight on Saturday will break the fast with some friends at a local taverna!  Paidakia, kokoretsi, patates, salates…Yum!  Then the next day there will be a big feast at a friends home with whole lamb on the spit, chicken, sausages, pork chops…Yum again…

Two days later I hope to be swimming in the very chilly Aegean for my first swim of the season.  I feel a need to be anointed in wine dark sea

–JDCM

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